Countless efforts on and off the pitch were made so that the planet’s most popular sport could reach the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup in the best way possible. As President Dilma Rousseff said, in a message sent to the FIFA Congress this week, Brazil did not invent football, but the sport made the country its spiritual home. After all, it was in Brazil that football became an art form. Indeed, by placing their expectations on the boots and talents of 23 players, Brazil wakes up on the 12 June 2014 in a special manner. The beginning of the dream of a sixth world title has time, place and already established opponents: 05:00pm at the Corinthians Arena in São Paulo, when Brazil plays Croatia.
“It is time. We should all go together. This is our World Cup", said Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari on the day before the match. The atmosphere at the Seleção is light hearted, they seem to be confident and injuries have steered away from the group. The team's objective is very clear, particularly in the heart and mind of Brazil's biggest player.
“I don’t want to be the best player, or top scorer. I just want to win the title. I’m ready to help my teammates. No one can play on their own”, said Neymar.
Brazil’s starting eleven should be the same as the one that lifted the Confederations Cup trophy a little less than a year ago: Julio César; Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, and Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho and Oscar; Neymar, Hulk, and Fred. It is important to add another name to this line-up, which will make all the difference: home support.
Demonstrations of love for the Seleção
Before even starting, the 2014 World Cup has already seen some curious ways of supporting Brazil. Six stars were painted onto a convertible beetle, making it famous in Fortaleza. Another VW was completely decorated, being christened the Fulecomobile and has been stopping traffic in the state of Pernambuco. (click on the links for the articles in Portuguese)
In the federal capital city, a lady painted her house green and yellow. A samba group from Itaquera, area where the Corinthians Arena is located, gets the music rolling for all their neighbours. In the Dona Marta Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, the community used paint with amazing results. In Curitiba, green and yellow creativity was something provided by a family of former boxers.
There are several similar stories and the World Cup in Brazil has not inspired just the Brazilians. English nationals walked 1966 kilometres, from Argentina to Brazil, to see the World Cup. Thousands of Chilean nationals are arriving in Cuiabá, while a Mexican invasion has already started in Recife, where the passenger terminal has been repainted for the World Cup. Colombians are being expected in households in Brasilia providing alternative accommodation and they will arrive at a modernised airport, also renovated for the World Cup.
Roads will be packed in Viamão (state of Rio Grande do Sul) to play host to Ecuador and Mexicans are always saying how grateful they are with all the love directed their way by the population in Santos (state of São Paulo). Croatians have arrived in São Paulo praising the welcome they have received in Mata de São João (state of Bahia).
It is the World Cup going beyond the twelve host cities. This World Cup goes beyond sport, strengthening important campaigns and bringing hope to other areas, other than football.
For peace and against racism
The fight against racism will be a constant theme of this World Cup. It is a tournament for peace, as pointed out by Pope Francis in his World Cup message. Doves will take flight in São Paulo a little before the first kick-off, as well as a lot of rhythm and a dollop of science.
A 25 minute show promises to show spectators the host country's happiness. At least, so says the ceremony art director Daphné Cornez. Nature, Brazilians and football are the three “treasures that will stand out in the show”. The World Cup official song ‘We Are One' will be performed in the final act. The song will be sung by Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, Claudia Leilte and Olodum, all of whom are looking forward to the big moment.
“It is a special moment, a great opportunity to share with everyone my Brazilianess. I’ll give everyone all my love and it’s also a great honour for me. I feel privileged”, said Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte.
Gates will open at 01:00pm and the show starts at 03:15pm. Dancers, gymnasts and capoeira dancers, among others are part of a team that comprises 600 professionals, who will come onto the pitch before the players to portray the country's diversity.
Before the first kick-off, a historic moment will give hope to over 25 million people in the world who are in a wheelchair. A paralysed patient, moving through the use of a robot vest controlled by brain activity (exoskeleton), will stand up, walk around 25 metres on the pitch and take the World Cup’s first kick. The demonstration is being put on by the Walk Again project, made up of 156 scientists from around the world and led by Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis.
When the match starts at 05:00pm, everyone's attention will be turned to football. And the challenge for Brazil is not easy, at least based on Croatia’s intentions. “I can’t promise to win the World Cup, I can't promise we'll beat Brazil, but I can promise that we'll give it our all, so that our supporters may be proud of our team", said Croatia’s right-back Darijo Srna, the day before the match.
Manager NiKo Kovac is keeping his starting line-up a secret, but this does not worry Big Phil Scolari, who was brief when questioned if he was ready for the challenge.